Mon-Thu, 11:30am-11:30pm; Fri-Sat, 11:30am-midnight; Sun, 11:30am-10:30pm
6 at Astor Pl.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Houston St. to 14th St., Ave. C to University Pl.
It's strange to find the sort of authentic Sichuan restaurant that usually requires trekking to Queens (or at least the right block of midtown) in the student-friendly East Village. Yet here's Hot Kitchen, bright and clean, with cordial-enough (if rather slow) service, jammed with Chinese families digging into communal chile-laced dishes that make liberal use of tingly Sichuan peppercorn. Start with preserved meat dumplings, which are juicy and pack a more nuanced meaty flavor than the usual steamed dumpling. Hot and sour sweet potato noodles are a must-order: glassy vermicelli in a mouth-numbing, deeply savory broth that seems to brim with curative properties. While chicken wings won't be the best you've ever tasted, they're worth trying for the elaborate (Hunan-leaning) bed of potatoes, mushrooms, lotus, and chopped chiles they're arrayed on, like some sort of spice fiend's Thanksgiving redux. Dry-fried and crunchy Mei Shan beef, with its sweet-and-spicy notes, should appeal to American-Chinese aficionados and hard-core regional-cuisine nerds alike. Skip the village spicy chicken, which, if ordered boneless, arrives chopped and flavorless on a bed of bell peppers. Prices are a bit higher than what you find in Flushing, but the shorter subway trip makes up for it.